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Rose's potential: Best point guard, Chicago product?

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Rose's potential: Best point guard, Chicago product?

During Derrick Rose's press conference Tuesday to announce his five-year, 94-million contract, the reigning league MVP was asked whether one of his goals was to become the best point guard in NBA history. Predictably, he deferred.

"I try not to think about that, being the best point guard. There's so many other great point guards that have played the game. Just mentioning me in the category, I think, at the end of my career, that would be something that would be great to me," the superstar answered. "I always want people to think Derrick Rose -- when they think about me -- I want them to think of a winner. That's it. Someone that went out every single night, played crazy, played well. Someone that was just a plain winner, did anything to win a game and that's what I want people to remember me for."

Since Rose is too humble to truly delve into the possibility, let's do it for him. It's only his fourth season, extremely early in what should be a long career, and he's still just scratching the surface of his potential, as hard as that may be to fathom. But it's a legitimate question, especially given his resume thus far -- two-time high school state champion, NCAA finalist in his lone college season, No. 1 overall draft pick, Rookie of the Year, two All-Star Game appearances in three seasons (including one as a starter) and of course, being named the youngest MVP in the history of the league -- and his determination to continually improve.

Magic Johnson is generally regarded as the best point guard of all-time, but he almost deserves an asterisk because a 6-foot-9 point guard was something unfair, seemingly out of a basketball geek's movie fantasy and something we haven't seen before or since. If some traditionally-thinking coach decided to stick Magic in the post as a youngster and he reluctantly embraced the role for the rest of his career, it's tough to say that the Hall of Famer wouldn't have still gone on to stardom as a revolutionary power forward-small forward hybrid (at the time) or at least been a solid pro.

When it comes to normal-sized point guards, however (yes, that excludes Oscar Robertson), most observers of hoops have the following players on their list: Isiah Thomas and John Stockton, and to a lesser extent, Tiny Archibald and Bob Cousy. Cousy was obviously a pioneer, but so few people can actually recall seeing him play live that it's hard to compare him to the others. Archibald, the only player to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season, was definitely a great player, but he was considered more of a solo artist, who only found team success when he was an aging veteran and on a balanced Celtics team that didn't require him to be a virtuoso.

Stockton, the all-time NBA assists leader, is a tougher call. Overshadowed as an individual talent by longtime teammate Karl Malone -- arguing which player benefited more from the others' presence is like the chicken-and-egg theory -- the former Jazz great never won a title and wasn't a gaudy scorer, but when it comes to pass-first point guards, he's without peer.

But as much as basketball purists crave pass-first point guards, true superstars in this game are capable of dominating the game themselves, without having to rely on their teammates capitalizing on their passing, no matter how pinpoint. Thomas, a Chicago native, best exemplified a floor general who blended unselfishness and takeover ability, as evidenced by his many legendary performances en route to two NBA championships in one of the league's most competitive eras.

Perhaps his post-playing career has obscured some recollections of his greatness, but Thomas was a first-magnitude star with the credentials to back it up. That's why it speaks volumes when former Bulls guard Randy Brown says Rose has a chance to be the best point guard ever.

"With Derrick, he does because he amazes me with the stuff he does. It goes back to last season, back in December. We were having a conversation and he asked, 'Can he be MVP?' out of a regular conversation, and he does it. He said he wanted to be a three-point shooter and he did it. Isiah -- outstanding -- I grew up watching him as a kid and loving him, but Derrick is in a stage of his life where he could be the best point guard to come out of Chicago," Brown, who now works in the Bulls front office, told CSNChicago.com. "You know what? Clearly Rose has a chance to be the best point guard ever. I'm with him every day, so I know it's kind of biased. He's in a Bulls uniform., but really what the kid does, I think he has to be mentioned one day as the best point guard to play the game."

The anecdote Brown -- who, like Thomas, hails from the city's West Side -- retold rings a bell for this writer because I remember having a similar conversation with Rose last season. It was before the Bulls played the Cavaliers in a half-empty Cleveland arena (due to a massive snowstorm), on the sideline as he waited to warm up. The best part of this job are the casual, off-the-record conversations with players -- ranging from basketball discussions to current events, pop culture and life in general--but now that Rose's (first?) MVP is safe, I don't feel any sense of betrayal in disclosing it.

We were talking about how realistic it would be for him to win the award and how historically, few players had gone from not even being a candidate the previous season to winning it the next; Steve Nash was the notable exception we cited. Fast forward a couple months and the next thing you know, there's Rose giving an emotional speech after taking home MVP honors.

But back to his all-time best point guard potential. Something Brown and I talked about is that with Chicago's lineage at the position--in addition to Thomas, there's Tim Hardaway, for starters -- Rose simply surpassing Thomas as the best player to come from Chicago would be a major achievement. At the end of his career, despite Rose's ever-growing popularity and being a nightly fixture on highlight reels, he'll ultimately be measured by titles, the thing he cares about the most. But assuming he can win at least one (and not at the end of his playing days, just chasing a ring), when you factor in unparalleled athleticism he has for the position, he has a chance to stand alone as both the best point guard ever and the best player to come from Chicago.

Obviously it helps that he plays for the Bulls, a storied franchise in a major market, as well as his hometown. But Brown, another hometown product, says it's not always easy to play in your own backyard.

"It is difficult, playing at home because of the distractions. A lot of family, a lot of friends, people pulling at you all the time and coming from the neighborhood you came from. I grew up on the West Side of Chicago and playing on the West Side, it was tough. It definitely humbles you. I had a great supporting cast, just like Derrick does, with a lot of brothers and sisters, and my parents," said Brown, who played alongside the greatest player in franchise history, Michael Jordan, one player Rose will have a hard time passing in stature. "The most important thing is -- Derrick says it all -- he has a good foundation with his family and he stays humble. It was tough at first, as you can see, but it also was a privilege to wear a Bulls uniform because I dreamed about it and I'm pretty sure he did, too. So, it was an honor."

Rose himself talked about being from Chicago -- specifically, the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side -- but regarded it as a less of a burden than a source of pride.

"Coming from where I'm coming from, I can't explain it. I really can't explain it. I never would have thought in a million years that I'd be signing a contract like this, especially coming from the area where I'm coming from. No one from Englewood, period, has ever been in my position and sometimes it makes you think, 'Why me?,' and for me to be 23 years old, I know that I'm truly blessed, I don't take anything for granted and I appreciate everyone around me, all my fans and my family," he said. "I'm pretty quiet, so I watch everything, watch everybody and just try to learn from everyone's mistakes from the past that really got people in trouble. I'm blessed to have my friends around me that I have around me. We've been knowing each other -- some of us, the people I hang with; it's like eight of us -- been knowing them since I was in third grade, sixth grade. Played together in grammar school, high school. It's a small circle of us. It's just loyalty and trust with us, and like I said, I don't take any of them for granted, and I hope our relationship and friendship just builds on from now on."

"For me, it's kind of weird, where I hate attention, but being the player that I want to be, it comes with the territory, so I've just got to live it up. I'm always blessed to be in the position that I'm in and I just try to stay positive," he continued. "I'm just going to continue being the way that I am."

Doing just that could leave him in some rare company as a player. He's already there as a person.

The aftermath of Kris Dunn's terrifying fall now includes a concussion

The aftermath of Kris Dunn's terrifying fall now includes a concussion

At first, it had appeared that Kris Dunn had somehow avoided a concussion in his scary fall late in Wednesday's Bulls loss to the Warriors.

But that is no longer the case, as Dunn has been diagnosed with a concussion:

The Bulls confirmed it the day after Fred Hoiberg said he wasn't sure if Dunn had suffered a concussion. The Bulls announced his two dislocated teeth have been stabilized and were splinted with braces.

Dunn took "a good little chunk out of the floor" with his teeth. He did not lose teeth when he fell face-first into the floor after he dunked and got caught on the rim just enough to throw his landing out of whack:

The 23-year-old point guard had 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 30 minutes Wednesday night while defending Steph Curry. Dunn is averaging 13.7 points, 6.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game on the season.

It is not yet known how much time Dunn will miss, but he is currently not traveling with the team as they embark on a three-city road trip beginning Saturday in Atlanta.

Being a 'little slow, a little late' costs Bulls against Curry, Thompson and Warriors

Being a 'little slow, a little late' costs Bulls against Curry, Thompson and Warriors

The margin for error in playing against even a half-focused Golden State Warriors team is thin.

Wire-thin.

And as the Chicago Bulls took their litmus test against the defending NBA Champions following their recent success, an understated quote from the HBO series “The Wire” comes to mind as character Avon Barksdale looks at his brother in a hospital bed, locked in a vegetative state.

“The thing is, you only got to (mess) up once,” he said. “Be a little slow, be a little late, just once. And how you ain't never gonna be slow, never be late? You can't plan for (stuff) like this, man. It's life."

While Barksdale certainly wasn’t referring to Golden State sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the words apply to defending them and this Warriors team in the middle of a dynastic run, winning their 14th straight road game with a 119-112 win over the Bulls at the United Center Wednesday night.

Curry and Thompson are at the peak of their powers, with Thompson scoring 38 and Curry 30 as they combined for 13 triples. The two put on a show during the decisive third quarter after the Bulls took a shocking 66-63 lead into halftime.

Thompson hit three in a row out the gate where the Bulls lost track of him away from the ball and Curry followed up with a quick five, giving the champions a seven-point lead.

"If you're a split second late, you're dead,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Each scored 11 in the period, reaffirming how dangerous they are when sensing opportunity.

“They were on fire, both of them, at the same time,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But yeah, it was an old school ‘Splash Brothers’ game.”

It was during that period where the Bulls went cold for an extended stretch, nearly seven minutes between scoring after putting up 72 points in the game’s first 26 minutes—not a shocker considering how the Bulls have played and the Warriors being without defensive mainstays Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

“Our defense picked up,” Thompson said. “They got a lot of wide open threes in the first half. And they were able to space the floor and get to the basket after that. We guarded much better and communicated much better than we did in that first half.”

By the time Jerian Grant’s layup ended the drought with 2:47, the Warriors had sprinted out to a 17-point lead and were seemingly on cruise control.

“We lost our minds out there,” Hoiberg said. “We weren’t hitting shots, then we couldn’t get back to get matched up. We relaxed. We stood up. We got caught on screens. We lost our spirit.”

It wasn’t that the Warriors’ collective will smothered the Bulls; they merely waited until they saw an opening, exerted themselves and took control. With the United Center at a fever pitch, the Warriors can’t match the nightly desire of their opponents, their energy and motivation to beat the champions.

What they’ve mastered in the last two seasons is staying afloat long enough before someone gets hot, then they run away and hide before the 48 minutes expires.

“There’s a balance of understanding, every game isn’t gonna be playoff intensity,” Curry said after the morning shootaround. “We’re not gonna play playoff minutes during the course of the regular season. The things we can focus on, will mentally prepare us for the playoffs. No matter if it’s playing Boston with the next best record in the league or playing whomever is at the bottom of the standings, it doesn’t matter.”

They focus on the tenets the Bulls hope to make theirs: defense, rebounding and taking care of the basketball (11 turnovers), which is obscured by their dynastic scoring and shooting.

It initially looked over in the first 12 minutes, when Curry scored 12 points on a “too late, too slow” Kris Dunn and the Warriors had a 12-point lead. But the Bulls scored a remarkable 20 points in the last 3:11 of the period to tally their best opening stanza of the season and taking a 40-38 lead.

“A hard-fought, energetic first half,” Hoiberg said.

Perhaps the Warriors were a little shell-shocked after Jordan Bell exited in the first 24 seconds following an ankle injury, playing with unusual emotion before settling in and allowing the Bulls to display the emotion that has become their trademark in the last several weeks, buoying them to an unlikely finish before the half.

And they did it without the contributions of Zach LaVine, who struggled in his third game, going two for 12 in his mandated 20 minutes to score just five points.

The Bulls had six players in double figures while Nikola Mirotic provided the scoring as early and late when the Bulls made their comeback to make the score interesting, while the Warriors only had three in double figures: Curry, Thompson and Kevin Durant, who was an afterthought of sorts with 19 points on six of 15 shooting.

On this night, it was Curry and Thompson doing the heavy lifting.

“We got sped up and they knocked down more shots than we did,” LaVine said. “We’re trying to match them at their game. They’re the gold standard. You can’t play that game. You have to get some stops.”

LaVine was tasked with chasing Thompson around screens, highlighting a step he needs to take in improving his off-ball defense.

A little slow, a little late.

“He’s extremely hard to guard,” LaVine said. “Especially when you have KD and Steph doing splits as well. Pachulia is good at screening. You gotta have your head on a swivel.”

Figuratively and emotionally, LaVine’s statement rings as the Bulls don’t have the talent to truly compete with the Warriors—and there truly isn’t a team that can say it does—they have to rely on emotion and execution to stay within arm’s reach of the champions.

“I don’t want to necessarily say we got lazy defensively, but we didn’t tighten up defensively,” said Justin Holiday, a member of the Warriors 2015 title team. “(Later) we did what we were supposed to do. I think we did a pretty good job, we just didn’t close it at the end.”

Dunn started to get going after a porous three quarters where he missed 10 shots in a row during a stretch, getting into the passing lane for a steal and uncontested dunk with 2:55 left to bring the Bulls close at 112-107—but fell on his face after letting the rim go and drawing blood from his mouth.

“He didn’t lose teeth,” Hoiberg said. “He’s being evaluated right now (for a concussion). There’s a good little chunk he took out of the floor. Tough kid.”

Tough kid, and tough team the Bulls have turned into from the last time they saw the Warriors when they played Washington Generals to the Warriors’ Globetrotters on Nov. 24 during a 49-point beatdown.

Mirotic has returned, and was a plus-25 in 27 minutes, scoring 24 points and hitting four triples. Bobby Portis continues to be an unsung catalyst with his style, and he battled veteran David West all night, scoring 12 points with four rebounds in 17 minutes.

David Nwaba came off the bench to guard Curry late, forcing turnovers and missed shots when the Bulls needed to do everything right to overcome a 32-12 third quarter.

“A guy like Curry and Thompson, any space you’re giving them, they’re shooting it,” Nwaba said. “They’re constantly on the move and I have to stay with them the best I can.”

When Nwaba was asked whether it was more important to stay with them on the ball or off, he sighed and said “Both. You can’t relax.”

And there’s the rub. No easy answer on this team, although the Bulls showed some character and moxie in picking themselves off the mat for the final 12 minutes to make it interesting.

“We’d like to play a perfect game,” Curry said. “But as I always say, the other team gets paid too and you’ve just got to find a way to win. Over the course of 48 minutes, we try to impose our will.”

Because sooner or later, you’ll be a little slow or a little soon—and it’ll be June, and we all know how that movie ends.